Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Beatrix Potter Treasury

Potter, Beatrix. 2007 (this edition). A Beatrix Potter Treasury: The Original and Authorized Editions by Beatrix Potter. New colour reproductions by Frederick Warne.

This treasury contains eleven of Beatrix Potter's animal stories and a nice little introduction that places them all in context. (This little introduction is "The Story of Beatrix Potter" and features plenty of pictures as well as reproducing the original letter to Noel Moore with the first "story" of Peter Rabbit. The intro focuses on her life and her books and the publishing process--their success and reception by the world.) Each of the eleven stories has a one page "about this book" introduction.

The stories include Peter Rabbit (1902), The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904), The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies (1909), The Tale of Mr. Tod (1912), The Story of A Fierce Bad Rabbit (1906, 1916), The Tale of Tom Kitten (1907), The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck (1908), The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or the Roly Poly Pudding (1908), The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan (1905), The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (1909).

The stories of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny were not new to me. I grew up with them. In fact, perhaps they were a bit too well known to me. Unless it's a common phrase for families to talk about "getting put in a pie" all the time. (Let me know if it is!) The phrase in full was a lecture to Peter Rabbit especially (Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail not really needing to be told twice) to stay out of Mr. McGregor's garden. "Your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor."

Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny (and many of the other stories as well) show that there are consequences to every action. If you're a good little bunny, then nice things happen to you. If you're a bad little bunny, then they don't.

I enjoyed almost all the stories in A Beatrix Potter Treasury. I can't say that Ginger and Pickles would ever be my choice as a read aloud, in fact, I don't quite "get it." Why an economic story disguised as a children's book?

I do wish this collection had more stories. I would have loved to see it have The Tale of Two Bad Mice, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, and The Tailor of Gloucester to name a few. But I suppose for those looking for that thorough an introduction could order The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter which came out the year before by the same publisher. (One is 400 pages and $40 retail, the other is 190 pages and $20 retail.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oliver Finds His Way

Root, Phyllis. 2002. First boardbook edition 2008. Oliver Finds His Way. Illustrated by Christopher Denise.

Oliver Finds His Way is a wonderful board book. (Once again I have fallen in love with a Phyllis Root book.) Oliver is a young brown bear who happens to lose his way and then with much consideration and determination finds it again. Here is how it begins, "While Mama hangs the wash out and Papa rakes the leaves, Oliver chases a big yellow leaf...down the hill, around a clumpy bush, under a twisty tree, and all the way to the edge of the woods." Before he even knows what has happened, he's lost without a clue as to how to get home again. When he realizes this, he "cries and cries and cries. But he is still lost. Oliver rubs his nose and tries to think. He thinks and thinks and thinks. All alone at the edge of the woods, Oliver has an idea." I'll leave it to you discover what his clever idea was on how to get home again, but it was an enjoyable and natural twist in my opinion.

I loved this book. Loved the illustrations. Loved the story. Loved the format. I'm sure it would have been a good picture book--the traditional format--but I'm happy to see it in sturdy board book format. I think this is one that young ones can really enjoy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Looking for A Moose

Root, Phyllis. 2006. (2008 Paperback). Looking for a Moose. Illustrated by Randy Cecil.

Before I read Looking for A Moose, I admit that I never thought it could be that fun to look for a moose. But this playful (and repetitive) book has made a believer out of me. The fun Root has with language is contagious. Really contagious. Here is how it begins, "Have you ever seen a moose--a long-leggy moose--a branchy-antler, dinner-diving, bulgy-nose moose?" "No! We've never, ever, ever, ever, ever seen a moose. And we really, really, really, really want to see a moose." So these four kids (and a dog) go on an adventure to search one out. Do they find one? You'll just have to read for yourself and see! It's fun, you'll just have to trust me on that.

I thought the illustrations were great. I loved the tone and colors of the book.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Penguin by Polly Dunbar


. Dunbar, Polly. Candlewick Press, 2007
Ladybug has mixed feelings about Penguin.  Snugglebug however has a definite opinion of the same book.  He didn't care for it.  The text and illustrations seemed to be over 5-month old Snugglebug's head.  Neither captured his attention.  The story is about a boy who is given a Penguin.  He tries a variety of ways to get the Penguin to engage him in conversation.  Since nothing is successful, he resorts to teasing and cajoling Penguin.  This, too, does not work.  In the end, he tries to feed Penguin to a lion, but ends up being eaten himself.  Penguin saves the boy's life, thus ending the language barrier. 
The difficulties lie in the latter half of the book.  Ladybug does not approve of teasing or cajoling for any reason, especially a language barrier.  That said, Ladybug feels this book is on the level of a 4 or 5-year old.  It would be a great book to open the conversation about cultural differences and ways to bridge the gap.  And in Ladybug's opinion, it is never too early to learn to bridge the gap.

Becky's thoughts: I had mixed feelings on Penguin as well. The teasing and being-eaten-or-almost-eaten-by-a-lion just didn't sit right with me. The "message" of the book is that there are many ways to communicate, many ways to say I love you. And my mother even entertained the idea for a moment or two that the Penguin was able to love unconditionally or sacrificially. It was able to "turn the other cheek" if you will. I couldn't quite embrace the notion of the Penguin-as-Christian-symbol.

The narrator just wasn't likable. In that it reminded me of Princess Justina Albertina by Ellen Dee Davidson (another book about bullying). In that case, our narrator didn't almost get eaten, she really and truly did get eaten. As did Pierre in Pierre by Maurice Sendak if I remember correctly. (Though it's been at least twenty years since I've read it, so it could have been a close call. I don't think that one had anything to do with bullying though.) And then there is Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau which also left me a bit cold. Talk about harsh consequences for bullying! My point, within the scheme of things, books about bullying and teasing, it has its place.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bye-Bye, Big Bad Bullybug!

Emberley, Ed. 2007. Bye-Bye, Big Bad Bullybug!

This book is delightful. Not that I want to over-use that word, but it's just a fun little book that I think is perfect for one-on-one reading aloud. (As opposed to sharing with a classroom group or library story-time.) The action starts even on the title page with three itty-bitty baby bugs. One says: "Listen!" Another says, "What's that?"And the third says, "Do you hear something?" Soon they see what appears to be a space ship getting closer and closer and closer. When it lands, the itty-bitty baby bugs learn along with the readers that he is the "Big Bad Bullybug!"

Page by page the suspense builds as the Big Bad Bullybug reveals all the reasons why he is "big" "bad" and a "bully." For example, "I have three mean green eyes for scaring itty-bitty baby bugs." And "I have sharp white teeth for biting itty-bitty baby bugs." It continues revealing with each page and each cutaway illustration just how big-and-bad this bully monster is.

But the Big Bad Bullybug, as big as he bad as he is...doesn't know this...the itty-bitty bugs have a friend and protector. Someone who is a champion of the little guy. (Or should I say the itty-bitty baby bugs.)

As I said, this one is just fun. And satisfying.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

My Name is Not Isabella

Fosberry, Jennifer. 2008. My Name Is Not Isabella. Illustrated by Mike Litwin. Monkey Barrel Press. (Coming in September 2008).

I enjoyed this one. It is a picture book about a little girl who is quite spunky and all original. "Good morning, Isabella," the mother said. "It's time to get up and out of bed." "My name is not Isabella!" said the little girl. And thus the drama begins. The book follows the little girl and her mother throughout the day as the girl adopts different names and different traits to follow in the footsteps of her heroes-of-the-moment: Sally Ride, Annie Oakley, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, and Elizabeth Blackwell. Also included in the list of the girl's heroes is "Mommy" because she is "the greatest, sweetest mother who ever was."

The book is both cute and informative. The mother seems to be quite patient and always encouraging of her daughter's imaginative hopes and dreams. And the relationship between the two is always positive. The women mentioned are real people who were great and unique and inspiring in their own ways. And the concept that girls can grow up to be great--phenomenal even--women who accomplish what they want and live determined and meaningful lives is a good one. This one doesn't even suffer from being didactic. Meaning though the concept is always in the background, it's not hitting you over the head with it either.

For any girl who has imagined herself being many people, having many jobs, doing many different wonderful things, this one will be a satisfying read.

If I'm being honest though, I didn't *love* the illustrations. I know it's probably very superficial of me to pick on the illustrations. But I just had a hard time getting past the purple hair. There were some spreads that worked for me, and others that just didn't.

Here is a page that worked for me:

Here is a page that didn't quite:

Friday, July 25, 2008

Yum: Your Ultimate Manual for Good Nutrition

Kalnins, Daina. 2008. Yum: Your Ultimate Manual For Good Nutrition.

This book is geared for the 8 to 13 year crowd. It thoroughly covers the basics of nutrition. Discusses nutrients both macro and micro. Discusses what nutrients our bodies need to be healthy, to grow, to develop, to function. Discusses how our bodies utilizes those nutrients. Discusses what nutrients different foods have. Teaches how to read labels. Teaches how to discern between good and bad choices. Not in a you-can't-ever-eat-candy way, but in a straight-forward way. It's all about fulfilling your body's need in the most efficient way. It offers advice on how to make the right choices for you. The book challenges the reader to become aware, to become involved. It encourages kids to get involved in food preparation and cooking. Even in grocery shopping. By taking those first few steps, then the rest will come easily and almost naturally. It urges kids (and adults) to try new foods, try new recipes, experiment with meals. Find what works for you, what you like. Sample meal plans and recipes are included. Also there is a six month challenge presented. It is a slow-and-steady plan to get to a healthier you in six months. It doesn't try to rush or overwhelm you. It knows that it takes time to break in new habits and break old ones.

Here's the product description from their website:

Many young people are trying to get on the road to good nutrition, or are being encouraged to do so. Chances are they've gotten advice from teachers, parents, doctors, and the media. But how can they use those suggestions to create a plan of action that makes sense for them and their lifestyle? It's time to get real, leave (most of) the junk in the dust, grab the next exit, and let YUM: Your Ultimate Manual for Good Nutrition move readers into the right lane.

YUM gives kids the info they need to get healthy and have fun while they're at it! The author explains how to can get exactly what our bodies need from the foods we eat. Readers will become food label-reading pros, and discover delicious recipes and healthy snack ideas from kids who already make nutrition part of their lives. They'll hear from celebrities dishing on how they eat right. There's even a forward from professional chef, Paul Finkelstein, host of Food Network Canada's "Fink." Readers are sure to be hungry for more, and YUM serves up cool facts like:

  • 100 trillion bugs live in your gut and help keep you healthy

  • leftover hamburger from last night’s supper can be part of a nutritious breakfast

  • there is such a thing as “good fat”

YUM empowers readers with great tools, including an action plan, that will help get them on the road to finding their own healthy body balance.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Heat Wave

Spinelli, Eileen. 2007. Heat Wave. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin.

I am not a fan of hot-and-sticky summer days. Give me a nice, cold air-conditioned room and I'll get by....but the characters in Spinelli's Heat Wave don't have that option. No, this picture book primarily illustrated with oranges, reds, and yellows, is set in the days before air conditioning. The story is a simple one. It follows a town throughout a record-breaking heat wave. All the town folks suffer through best they can, but misery and discomfort abound. Towards the end of the week, the town starts dreaming the same dream...

I thought I would like this one more than I did. I don't know if it's me or the book, quite honestly. It's certainly hot enough in Texas to relate to the sentiments of Heat Wave. But for some reason, this one just didn't live up to my expectations. And the plot was a bit boring to me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bunny Fun

Weeks, Sarah. 2008. Bunny Fun.

I don't know that Bunny Fun is what I'd call a great book, but it is a fun book. And that counts for something in my opinion. It's predictable. It's repetitive. It's interactive. It's rhythmic. It's cute, but not near the border of cutesy-wutesy. This is how it begins,

"Drip-drop rainy day.
Bunny can't go out to play.
Waiting for the sunny sun,
time to have some . . ."

You guessed it..."Bunny Fun!" This bunny and mouse team get into some trouble indoors--much like in the classic book The Cat and the Hat. (Except, this pair don't need any outside encouragement to make a mess of things. I don't think many kids do though!!! I know I certainly made more than my fair share of messes.)

The book is playful. The illustrations are bright and cheerful. This is one I'm happy to recommend.

Monday, July 21, 2008

No Bows

Duke, Shirley Smith. 2006. No Bows! Illustrated by Jenny Mattheson.

A few days ago when I was reviewing Say Hello, I mentioned that sometimes less was more. (Cat is another recent example.) That just a few well-chosen words can tell a good--sometimes even great--story. (Now that I think about it Orange Pear Apple Bear is another good example. I think I really like simple.)

No Bows is a great book. A really great book. And I'm not just saying that. Occasionally I come across a picture book hero or heroine that is me. There's just an instant click, a connection. I see myself in that character, in that book. Such is the case with No Bows.

In just a few words, our young heroine is fully-fleshed, fully developed. And she's fun. She's just a delight.

Here's a sample of the text:

no bows...

no pink...

no puppy...

You get the idea. She's an individual. She's content, happy, delighted to be just who she is. And her parents love her just as she is.

The book is so simple, so inviting, that it just is begging to be an interactive "read." It's predictable in that even if one can't technically read the words on his/her own, the pictures are there to help out, give a clue as to what word comes next.

Anyway, I love the text. I love the concept. I love the illustrations. (So bright. So happy. So right.) If I had read this as a child, there is not a doubt in my mind that it would have been an again-again book. A book that I would have insisted time and time and time and time again be read aloud.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Puppies and Piggies

Rylant, Cynthia. 2008. Puppies and Piggies. Illustrated by Ivan Bates. Harcourt.

Puppies and Piggies had me at hello. It's a fun, playful, rhythmic book featuring a variety of farm animals. This is how it begins:

Puppy loves the farmyard,
Puppy loves the rain.
Puppy loves to press his nose
Against the window pane.

Another one of my favorites is about a goose:

Goosey loves his honking,
Goosey loves his walk.
Goosey loves to find a friend
and talk and talk and talk.

The illustrations are nice. (Watercolor by the way) They offer plenty of details, but not in an overwhelming way. The reader can choose, however, to seek out and discover the little things that add to the story as a whole. (For example, on the opening spread, all the animals that play a role in the book can be seen though the natural focus is on the puppy. There is the mouse hiding near the chicken feed, the goose hiding in the wheel barrow, the bunny and pig resting by the picket fence, the pony and cat beside the corner of the house, the hen and baby chicks playing in the puddle, etc.) It is interesting to see which animals appear on which pages.

Rhythm and rhymes are elements that can play an important role in books for young children. Especially if they're done right. It's not easy as you might think to get it right. It has to feel natural. It has to be natural.

This is the kind of book that just feels right. It's hard to define why it works so well. It just does. (Rylant is a genius after all.) Barn animals. Babies. Rhythmic rhyming. It's just a joy to read. And I should also mention that it's the kind of book I'd want to read again and again and again.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Snugglebug meets Big Fish, Little Fish

Heck, Ed. 2007. Big Fish Little Fish.

Since Miss Becky already reviewed the concept of Big Fish Little Fish, SnuggleBug will focus on the desirability of the same book.

Snugglebug loved, loved, loved this book. The illustrations are bright and colorful, and they have shiny areas on the pictures that really captured his interest. Upon seeing the cover alone, his eyes lit up, and he smiled a big smile. He let out a joyful sound when he saw the illustrations inside.

The oversized pages are great, too. They are easy for him to grasp and turn, and he loves to turn the pages. SnuggleBug also noted that the book tasted good, too. The cover is made of a firm plastic and not cardboard. Ladybug noted that since everything goes in SnuggleBug's mouth right now, this is one book that will withstand teething.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

1, 2, Buckle My Shoe

Hines, Anna Grossnickle. 2008. 1, 2, Buckle My Shoe. Harcourt. (Illustrations by Anna Grossnickle Hines.)

Words cannot begin to convey how much I love, love, love this book. Inspired by a quilt she made for her granddaughter, 1, 2, Buckle My Shoe uses quilt blocks to illustrate the familiar (and often beloved) nursery rhyme. (In one variation or another)

One, Two, buckle my shoe.
Three, four, shut the door.
Five, Six, pick up sticks.
Seven, eight, open the gate.
Nine, ten, my big fat hen.

Simple text. Familiar text. It is in the illustrating that this one reaches perfection. And I do mean perfection. On her website, she does show the quilt as a whole. And I'll be using that image here. But the illustrations of the book are copyrighted. And I'm not trying to violate that in any way. But I think just seeing a glimpse of what the illustrations are like will convince you to seek this one out!!! (They are different than the quilt below.)

The book is wonderful. The illustrations are wonderful. And the author's site is wonderful. This book has (according to the author's site) received two stars in review journals (Kirkus, Booklist).

Read the story behind the book.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Does A Cow Say Boo?

Hindley, Judy. 2008. Does A Cow Say Boo? Illustrated by Brita Granstrom. Board book. (Candlewick Press)

I liked this one. I liked it a lot. Animal noises are fun. They just are. And books focusing on animals and their noises are often a real treat. Does A Cow Say Boo? is a silly, playful book that begs to be read aloud. It's one that young ones will want to join in on. Here is how it opens, "Does a cow say BOO? Oh, no! What does a cow say? A cow says... MOO! That's what a cow says--and you can, too. So who says Boo?" Cows, pigs, dogs, cats, owls, mice, roosters, ducks, bees, etc. none of these say boo! Who says boo? Why that'd be YOU! (You get the idea!) Anyway, it's an interactive book with lots of opportunities for toddlers to participate in. So it's fun and definitely recommended.

Big Fish Little Fish

Heck, Ed. 2007. Big Fish Little Fish.

Big Fish Little Fish is a slightly oversized board book that is more than a little fun. It's part concept book and part adventure I'd say. Concept in that it does a bit of work in illustrating opposites--big, little; in front, behind; above, below; inside, outside; etc.--but an adventure story as well as little fish does his best to escape from the bigger fish who is trying to catch him. So it could be seen as mostly being about the chase.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I Love My Daddy

Galvin, Laura Gates. 2007. I Love My Daddy.

Drawing from scenes in nature, I Love My Daddy uses simple text and illustrations to discuss the many reasons why fathers are wonderful and loved and needed. For example, this is how it begins, "I love my daddy because...He always likes to see me play. He keeps me safe and warm each day. My daddy helps take care of me." One reason--usually--per spread. The sentences are short, sweet, and simple.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Little Hoot

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse. 2008. Little Hoot.

I just have to say I love Amy Krouse Rosenthal. I just love her. Some of my favorite picture books--in recent years--have been written by her.

Little Hoot's life would be so perfect, so great if it wasn't for one small problem. His parents MAKE him stay up late. While Little Hoot's friends all have early bedtimes, Little Hoot must stay up late and play owl games. And he does not like it, not one little bit! In fact, Little Hoot at one point stomps off saying, "When I grow up, I'm going to let my kids go to bed as early as they want." Little Hoot is a playful twist on the traditional bedtime story. And it's such an enjoyable little twist!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cool Zone with The Pain and The Great One

Blume, Judy. 2008. Cool Zone with the Pain & the Great One. Illustrated by James Stevenson.

Cool a fun chapter book. Narrated by 'the Pain' (younger brother, Jake, first grade) and 'the Great One' (older sister, Abigail, third grade), Cool Zone with the Pain & the Great One is family-and-school drama at its best. Each chapter is a self-contained story or adventure. Episodic. Both brother and sister were enjoyable. All the chapters were enjoyable. But if I had to pick a favorite, I'd have to admit that my favorite chapter is the last chapter which is narrated by the family cat, Fluzzy.

The book is family-friendly and would make a good read aloud.

Though I didn't know when I began reading it, it is the second book in a series.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Girl, A Boy, And Three Robbers

Gauthier, Gail. 2008. A Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers. Illustrated by Joe Cepeda.

This chapter book is so much fun that I just don't think I could do it justice. It's fun. It's funny. It's just a joy to read. (It is the second in a series, but I haven't read the first.) Hannah and Brandon are friends. Mostly. Brandon stays at Hannah's house several days a week after school. While there, Hannah loves to play all sorts of imaginative games with him. Brandon? Well, he'd rather some of these "games" take place near the TV.

In this book, we are introduced to three "robbers." These robbers are really three neighbors, three siblings (a pair of twins and a younger brother). The Sunderlands. Rose and Owen. Conor. These kids take a very special interest in Hannah's "monster" cat Buttercup.

That's just the surface story. This one you'll really just need to trust me on. Brandon is a great narrator, and I think this book has something for everyone.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mommy's Little Star

Bingham, Janet. 2008. Mommy's Little Star. Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw.

This one obviously falls into the cutesy and sweet category. There is nothing wrong with that. Some people *love* sweet, gushy, cutesy books. I myself have fallen for a few of those through the years. I don't love each and every book in that category however. And some picture books border between cutesy and dinky. And I really don't like dinky at all.

What is Mommy's Little Star all about? Well, it's about love, and it's about family; but it's also about nature. I would say observing nature and appreciating life and loving one's family. It's a conversational book between a parent and child. (Much like Guess How Much I Love You is a conversation between parent-and-child.) It stars a pair of foxes. (In this case a Mama Fox and her son.)

I liked the illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw. They were cute and sweet. But they stopped short of dinky-ville.

The text itself I was more on the fence about. I'd read it one day and think it was cute. A bit too sugary perhaps but workable. The next day I'd think it had crossed the line and was dinky. And then the next time I was back to thinking it worked. Every time I've picked this one up, I've come away with a different reaction. Which is why it has taken so long to get a review up. I've been shuffling this one around for about six or seven weeks now. Saying, "self, do I like this one or not?"

Anyway, it is what it is. A nice cutesy-wutesy feel good story about the parent-child bond.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Introducing Snugglebug!!!

You know how much I love baby reviewers! Well, I am very proud and happy to introduce you to our newest baby reviewer, Snugglebug!!! Snugglebug's reviews will be written by his mama, Ladybug.

McBratney, Sam. 1996. Guess How Much I Love You. Illustrated by Anita Jeram.

Originally published in 1996, Guess How Much I Love You is a definite must read for anyone young or old. Four-month old Snugglebug was mesmerized the first time his mama, Ladybug, read it to him. The illustrations by Anita Jeram are simple enough to catch his eye and detailed enough to keep him interested. He studied the illustrations of Little Brown Hare and Big Brown Hare while listening intently to the story of Little Brown Hare's attempt to prove he loves his father, Big Brown Hare, more than his father loves him.

The author, Sam McBratney, uses just the right number of words for each page so little eyes are not bored before reaching the end of the page. The number of pages are also the perfect amount reaching an end to the story just as the small one's attention span also reaches an end.

While not a classic yet, Snugglebug declared it one of his favorites. Ladybug noted the only downside is the pages are not thick enough for Snugglebug to turn them. Ladybug would strongly recommend one's parents purchase this book as a board book for anyone Snugglebug's age.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tap Dancing on the Roof

I've enjoyed many of Linda Sue Park's books through the years. And I was pleased to discover her book of poetry, Tap Dancing On the Roof, a collection of sijo poems. (There is an introduction to explain just what sijo means.) The poems cover a wide variety of topics--most of them every day activities from reading, eating, playing sports, school, etc. Here is my favorite from the book:


Hurry, wash fast, sister's used up most of the hot water again. Soap, scrub, rinse. Rub and wrap. Hair shining, skin glowing, smelling fine: From a tiled cocoon, a butterfly with terrycloth wings.

While that one is my favorite, there are many other enjoyable poems found within Tap Dancing On the Roof. I didn't love the illustrations. I found them a bit boring and uninviting. But the text itself, the poems themselves are quite nice.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Splat the Cat

Scotton, Rob. 2008. Splat the Cat.

Splat the Cat is incredibly rich in detail. One that you might have to read twice just to notice everything. (I did.) On the surface, Splat the Cat is your typical first-day-of-school story. Splat is a cat that is nervous, anxious, and jittery as can be about the first day of Cat School. (His tail is one big question mark!) On that first page, Splat is making a face that I feel almost everyone can relate to!

I love that on the next page--when Splat and his pet mouse, Seymour, are trying to "hide" from the day, that you can still see them through the sheets. I love that kind of intricate detail. The illustrations have such depth, in my opinion.

But no matter how much Splat dreads the day, his Mama is insistent--very insistent--that he must go to school. No matter that the front door and the gate and the lamppost not wanting to let him go. Seymour and Splat must go to school. Though Seymour is concealed in Splat's lunch box.

Cat School is full of new things. Classmates. A teacher. Mrs. Wimpydimple. (That's fun to say isn't it?) One of the first things Splat learns is that cats are amazing...that he is amazing. He also "learns" that cats chase mice. Though for the life of him he can't figure out WHY a cat would want to do such a thing!

As older readers (and younger readers) might have guessed, there comes a time during the day when Seymour's presence is made known. When the classmates (and perhaps even the teacher) try to chase him. But Seymour gets the best of them. And in fact, he endears himself to everyone when he upon nudging from Splat saves the day.

I'll leave the rest to your imagination. But needless to say, the second day of school looks to be off to a much better start for Splat!

This one is fun. Pure and simple. It's fun. It covers a wide range of emotions. And it's one that parents, children, and teachers can all relate to in one way or another.

Other reviews: 100 Scope Notes, Cheryl Rainfield, Julie M. Prince, Bookami, The Reading Tub, Class Brain, Charlotte

Author/Illustrator website.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Say Hello

Foreman, Jack & Michael. 2008. Say Hello.

Sometimes less is more. Such is the case with Say Hello by Jack & Michael Foreman. This book is simple. Very simple. But it is in its very simplicity that it shines, that it works. Say Hello is a story about feeling left out, feeling alone, being on the outside looking in. It's a story of friendship too. Being brave enough to say hello. Brave enough to join in. Brave enough to smile. Brave enough to try to make new friends wherever you may go.

Perfect for those kids on the shy side.

Product description:

This striking book, written and illustrated by a father and son, reminds us all that it doesn't take much to say hello when a child is feeling left out and alone. This thought-provoking tale is brought to life with Michael Foreman's stark, evocative illustrations and offers an uplifting message.

Other reviews:

Lookingglass Review,

Saturday, July 5, 2008

You Can Be My Friend

Charlie and Lola: You Can Be My Friend! The book is based on a TV show which is based on characters created by Lauren Child. I love Charlie and Lola. I do. I LOVE them. I love the show. I love the books.

In this episode, we see Lola making a new friend. (Not a new best friend, but a friend.) It's a bit tricky there for a while, but soon Lola's bubbly personality--okay the bubbly pink milk--brings out the giggles in her very very very shy acquaintance...and friendship isn't that far away once the giggles begin.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!

Duel: Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words

Fradin, Dennis Brindell. 2008. Duel: Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words. Illustrated by Larry Day.

I honestly never thought I'd see a picture book about the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. When I first read about the duel back in school--eighth or ninth grade--or whatever, I must admit it was one of the more intriguing, more interesting aspects of American history. Made even more *fun* (if fun is the proper word) by this Got Milk commercial which was brand new and oh-so-much-fun.

So on to the book review. I liked it. It was clear. It was straight-forward. It was interesting. It was informative. I can't say that I loved, loved, loved the illustrations. But they were nice enough. (Just because I like a slightly different style of illustration doesn't mean these aren't good.) Perhaps if I hadn't just read (and reviewed) Lady Liberty by Doreen Rappaport with illustrations by the incredible Matt Tavares, then I wouldn't have felt they were lacking a little something.

Just because I'm reviewing it here doesn't mean it's a picture book for young readers however. This one is not really a picture story book for young ones. It's for those in mid to upper elementary school perhaps. The reader needs to have some grasp of history in order to enjoy this one. (As opposed to first graders who don't really "get" that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. all lived at different times. These are the folks that most often than not will either answer Lincoln or Washington when asked who the president is.)

Apparently, I didn't realize how popular a story this actually was. (Who knew that there were reenactments going on???) And look at this: legos fun!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Independent Dames

Anderson, Laurie Halse. 2008. Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution. Illustrated by Matt Faulkner.

First off, I just want to say that I love the premise of this one. Laurie Halse Anderson is writing about little known (or unknown) characters in American history. Placing women (and girls) into the historical context of the American Revolution. And I like the idea that she's "exposing" (if you will) kids to this notion of how important women are to society, to history, to life, at an early age (mid-to-upper elementary school). The field does seem in many ways exclusive to men--specific men--Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, etc. Women are marginalized often along with African-Americans and Native-Americans when it comes to history textbooks. This isn't always the case. And I believe each school district is responsible for adopting their own textbooks and setting the curriculum. So some schools may be more progressive than others. (Maybe progressive isn't quite the right word. But it's as close as I could get at the moment.) My experience--limited as it may be, and as ancient as it may be--didn't allow me to really start learning about important women in history, in society, in literature until I was in college. (I would even go so far as to say that it wasn't until college that I was exposed to more than just the same old dead white guys in history and literature.)

In Independent Dames we learn about many many women (and some girls) who helped play a role in America's fight for independence. On each spread, we learn about a handful of women--perhaps two or three to a page. We never really see more than a sentence or two on each woman, but we get the big picture--women played a role too. An important role. A role that while may be dismissed by the traditional textbook, is an important one to the overall victory and morale of the war. Women as soldiers. Women as spies. Women as nurses. Women providing food, clothes, shelter, money. Women working in men's jobs in order to help their country.

It's well researched. There is an extensive timeline of the war. There are extensive notes in the sidebars. There are extensive notes in the back along with a bibliography and index.

I liked the information. It seemed a bit crowded in places. There was a lot going on on each page. I did a horrible job in describing the business--so I'll just point you to a better description:
Instead of one narrative thread through the pages, there are four types of writing on each spread- a timeline, biographical information, narrative storyline, and dialogue bubbles.
And I wasn't crazy about the illustrations. I didn't hate them. But I didn't love them. They just weren't my personal style of choice. But they weren't bad.

But teachers and parents should think about including this one.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

100 Days and 99 Nights

Madison, Alan. 2008. 100 Days and 99 Nights.

Everyone calls me Esme, which is five letters short of my given name, Esmerelda. My middle name, Swishback, is my mother's last name before she got married. And my last name, McCarther, is spelled with two C's--the first one is a baby and the second one isn't. That's me all over: I'm Esmerelda Swishback McCarther. (1)

Esme has a younger brother, Ike, and quite a few pets. Esme is used to moving around quite a lot. Her father is in the army. She's lived in Korea, Kenya, and Germany. And the U.S., of course, where she is living now. Virginia to be exact. But her father's last assignment is a place where his family can't come with him. He'll be away on tour of duty for 100 days and 99 nights. This is Esme's story of how she copes with his absence, and copes with life in general--getting along with her brother, going to school, etc.

Esme's uniqueness manifests itself early on. She's got a "bedzoo" of animals living with her. Stuffed animals on her bed all the way from A to Z. Each chapter features an animal from her bedzoo. But Esme's uniqueness is also illustrated in her narrative voice. It's strong; it's spunky. It's vulnerable. It just feels right.

138 pages.

I'll Be Your Susan Lucci

So I was very very very happy to watch this one. I love Veggie Tales most of the time. But I tend to *really* like those more literary endeavors. The Big River Rescue features "Huckleberry Larry" and "Tomato Sawyer" though you can just call him "Tom." Big Jim is on the run. And though Tom and Huck had promised Big Jim's "owners" that they'd be on the look out for him, they soon realize that Jim's running away is justified. In fact, they agree--Huckleberry Larry enthusiastically with Tomato Sawyer being a bit more cautious--to help him on his way. Where are they going? And why? They're going to St. Louis, to the St. Louis World's Fair! Jim is on his way to his sweet singing Mama Belle whom he hasn't seen in years.

This one is fun and silly. Definitely recommended.